Meteorite petrology versus genetics: Toward a unified binominal classificationOPEN ACCESS 

Emmanuel Jacquet

Version of Record online: 13 August 2022


“The current meteorite taxonomy, a result of two centuries of meteorite research and tradition, entangles textural and genetic terms in a less than consistent fashion, with some taxa (like “shergottites”) representing varied lithologies from a single putative parent body while others (like “pallasites”) subsume texturally similar objects of multifarious solar system origins. The familiar concept of “group” as representative of one primary parent body is also difficult to define empirically. It is proposed that the classification becomes explicitly binominal throughout the meteorite spectrum, with classes referring to petrographically defined primary rock types, whereas groups retain a genetic meaning, but no longer tied to any assumption on the number of represented parent bodies. The classification of a meteorite would thus involve both a class and a group, in a two-dimensional fashion analogous to the way Van Schmus and Wood decoupled primary and secondary properties in chondrites. Since groups would not substantially differ, at first, from those in current use de facto, the taxonomic treatment of “normal” meteorites, whose class would bring no new information, would hardly change. Yet classes combined with high- or low-level groups would provide a standardized grid to characterize petrographically and/or isotopically unusual or anomalous meteorites—which make up the majority of represented meteorite parent bodies—for example, in relation to the carbonaceous/noncarbonaceous dichotomy. In the longer term, the mergers of genetically related groups, a more systematic treatment of lithology mixtures, and the chondrite/achondrite transition can further simplify the nomenclature.”